Waversa EXT-LAN Reference and Streamer - My Take

MichaelHiFi

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Jan 6, 2022
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Waversa EXT-LAN Reference and Streamer

I’ve been playing around with the Waversa gear for months now having been generously loaned to me by John Ketcham of Kevalin Audio. I wrote a review of the Waversa USB Reference, and now I’ve spent some time with the Waversa LAN - EXT Reference. It has taken time for this device to settle in; I was warned of the fact by both John and forum users of this device, so I left it alone in play (not continuously) as a default source in my music room.

I started this review using Spatial X3's coupled to the Waversa/Allnic gear in place. I was not unhappy with what I was hearing having the Allnic DAC in place. The EtherREGEN/ ultraRendu combo removed much of the digital noise coming from the server but the DAC was what made the system sing. Early in this review, I didn’t get a sense that the Waversa LAN/streamer was bettering the EtherREGEN/ultraRendu combo. Furthermore, I was disturbed a bit that the Waversa USB cable that accompanied the LAN/Streamer seemed a touch more open than my Network Acoustics Muon USB. I’m splitting hairs on this but it was slightly noticeable.

The Buchardt’s benefitted being relocated in a much smaller room. More than that, the Buchardt's grew bass in this room where in the upstairs system they desperately needed the Adam SW260 subs. When driven by the Allnic gear paired with the Waversa EXT-LAN Reference, I had to recalibrate my senses. There was an immediate smoothness, a calmer presentation having the Waversa in play. This lack of ‘noise’ also allowed instruments and vocals more of their own space. During this time my wife showed up to listen. First off, She was very enthusiastic with the Buchardt’s in play. The Spatials needed more room, the Buchardt’s less. I swapped back the EtherREGEN/Rendu combo to have her take on what may be differences in sound. I did not tell her what was in play. She loved the Ether/Rendu combo but when swapped with the Waversa she was surprised at what changes happened to the music. It was simply easier to listen too due to how smooth and clear the music had become. It wasn’t game changing but there was undeniably a change for the better.

Weeks had gone by and it was time to assess what the Waversa brought to the table after some additional settling in time.
I will provide 3 scenarios to this review.

Scenario 1:
This is the simplest method simply using the NA muon USB from the computer motherboard to the Allnic DAC.
We sat down with our customary glass of wine and listened.
Very nice and why do we need anything else? Lana Del Ray’s “White Dress” voice is portrayed with the same ethereal wispy vocal that I heard through the former Holo May KTE DAC only through the Allnic she grew more of a body. Norah Jones too sounded spacious and had a very clear, open sound with perhaps a bit of grain, but very dynamic. With this combo, I felt I could listen to whatever genre I wanted to and be very pleased.

Scenario 2:
This adds the EtherREGEN and the ultraRendu powered by an Uptone power supply and uses the Muon USB from the DAC to the ultraRendu. HQPlayer comes into play here with a favorite set of filters employed.
This changed the sound considerably. Now we have a much smoother and less analytical sound. Dynamics I would say were similar but the contrast was different. That is, it felt like the former presented dynamics due to the heightened transients or perhaps, a more abrupt way of presenting the flow. It was clear that with just the computer to DAC scenario there was more digital presence and sounded noisier. Female vocals were now more real sounding, more flesh and blood, and space was generous from beyond the confines of the speakers. Localization was spot on with clear images that were not as etched as in Scenario 1. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if Scenario 1 sounded ‘digital’; it only became apparent when compared with Scenario 2.

Scenario 3:
Using the Waversa EXT-LAN and streamer as well as the Waversa USB and LAN cable.
The sound had changed again in a not-so-subtle way. It was smoother with greater clarity. The vocals especially felt vinyl smooth. Every aspect of the presentation of sound was calmer. And yet, the openness remained, the details were there, the dynamics too, but the digital signature was greatly diminished, so much so that at first I was concerned that something was amiss. Our senses in this Scenario 3 had to be recalibrated again. This was the scenario I’d been enjoying for the last 3 to 4 weeks, through both the Spatial’s and now the Buchardt’s

One track we played, a very familiar artist that we’ve listened to countless times on perhaps dozens of systems, was Chris Rea’s “Auberge”. Both “Gone Fishing” and “And You My Love” were presented differently. Chris Rea’s voice had changed. He has this amazingly low baritone, somewhat gravely perhaps, throaty definitely, and always felt raw through all of the previous digital systems I’ve owned. But now it was smoother, more present. My first thought was ‘is this the way it’s supposed to sound’? Or is it? I jumped in my car and drove to the local record store to purchase this album and, of course, not only did they not have it, I was told it was never released in the US.

So once again I had to know (like I’m really going to know this time), how much of the digital artifact I've been listening to, grown accustomed to, and enjoyed all these years?

I somewhat randomly grabbed an album - “Raising Sand”, the Robert Plant, Alison Krauss collaboration, and cued it up on my Rega P10/Alpheta 3 cartridge using the Allnic H-5500 phono stage. I sat down to compare the vinyl version against the Waversa LAN/streamer version against the ultraRendu/EtherREGEN/HQPlayer version.

It was fascinating. I could more or less A-B between the Rega and the digital source by selecting the source on the T-2000. When ABing the digitaI scenarios, I had to switch USB cables going from the ultraRendu and the Waversa devices.

OK, so what did I prefer? On 2 different albums I felt that I slightly preferred the Waversa version. I thought it was simply livelier sounding, a bit cleaner, but barely. I’m sure different albums and different cartridges might change that direction. But wait, I’ve got a Dynavector XXV MKII plugged into my Technics SL1800 (which I purchased in 1979). I’ll steal that and see what changes.

It changed alright. The Dynavector presented an even more open presentation, livelier for sure but at the expense of going perhaps too far in the treble range as vocals became a bit more shouty than what was presented with the Alpheta 3 cart. Again, this is presented only with one album. Both cartridges played it differently, so when I went back to compare vinyl to Waversa (using the Dynavector) the differences changed my perception of what I preferred. I still preferred the Waversa but again, only slightly so.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve gotten to this point in the review (not published yet), and I’ve continued to play the Waversa Lan/streamer as a primary source with sprinklings of vinyl. So one last time let me compare the Waversa LAN/streamer vs the EtherREGEN/ultraRendu setup. Playing Michael Kiwanika’s “Cold Little Heart” album, I was enjoying the song ”Fallen”. Halfway through I swapped Waversa LAN/streamer with the EtherREGEN/ultraRendu. I got ten notes through this song and was dismayed at what I heard. Did my brain become accustomed to the Waversa ‘sound’? Without the Waversa, music sounded noisier in the form of harshness that I hadn’t noticed other than running USB straight from the server’s motherboard. It seemed that the Waversa had achieved an even greater disparity between my EtherREGEN/Rendu combo.

I decided to borrow my wife again to determine the differences I'm noting through this A-B process. I cued up Alison Krauss/Robert Plant’s “Raising the Roof” and set it on the ultraRendu/EtherREGEN digital stream. We went back and forth again between Rega P10 and the ultraRendu. The Rega was smoother and a bit more dimensional, especially in depth. The ultraRendu digital stream was not far off. My wife enjoyed the warmth on the analog side rather than the slight harshness/noise from the digital side.
Moving to the Waversa was a surprise to her. It was smoother and even more dynamic. In fact, it was so dynamic, she thought she may have preferred the analog sound. However, that turned out to be track specific. Also, note that we play loud and my wife especially likes music played at the extreme level of the system. That forced the small Buchardt's to play just outside their comfort range which may explain the aforementioned dynamics being a little on edge. Now this is my wife’s perception. I think the absence of noise can make it feel more dynamic. I don’t see how in reality, the dynamics can improve through the addition of a digital filter inside the USB signal transport. But I’m just a student here.

The takeaway here was that the Waversa LAN EXT Reference and its related streamer brought us closer to the beauty presented with the Allnic T-2000 30th integrated and the Allnic D-10000 DAC. The Waversa adds to the magic of these very fine components.

PROs:
Removal of the digital artifact (is there any more to be removed?)
Serious upgrade for any digital component that uses a USB interface.
LAN EXT = no expensive power cord to be bought but then there’s that USB cable.
LAN streamer.
Waversa streamer, easy to set up and Roon friendly.

CONs:
May be expensive if considering going to their top tier level LAN component.
Concerning the LAN streamer, one may want to add additional Waversa components for operation outside of Roon.

MichaelHiFi
 

MichaelHiFi

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It has been a number of months since I'd written about the Waversa LAN EXT. This past weekend I finally had a chance to share my audio system with a good friend of mine who is also an audio dealer. It was an opportunity too, to showcase what the Waversa does as a LAN filter.

I started with the Ultrarendu/HQPlayer combo. Music played well while we rotated between 3 pairs of speakers, The Buchardts S400 MKII's, The Spatial X3's and the Clearwave 5R's. Each speaker provides a vastly different presentation. I stayed for the most part, with the same song for comparison's sake. In the middle of this listening session, I swapped the rendu/HQP set for the Waversa LAN EXT/streamer set.

I believe my dealer friend was very surprised at the difference in sound provided through the Waversa set. He wasn't the only one. It seemed to me the gap had grown between the rendu/HQP set. His thoughts were that the Waversa had space and air and almost like a reverb quality, so much separation between instruments. There was no contest. There's also no going back, ultimately.

I don't know how this silver brick is able to perform the way it does. Perhaps it simply fully isolates the bits from the power? Whatever it does it enhances a quality USB stream that I was already happy about. It costs more but the difference makes the Waversa duo a bargain to my ears.
 
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ketcham

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This Video was released today, mirrors Michael’s thoughts:
 

ctsooner

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EXT 1 Ethernet incoming. I'll burn it in and run it through the wringer and see how I like it vs the optical isolation devices I've had in. Pretty excited to get going...
 

MichaelHiFi

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Like to see how it works for you. By all means, report back.

I'm either buying the EXT1Reference or the LAN Reference Plus. I'm very happy with the EXT1 Reference but I've heard the higher-end Waversa model Reference Plus is a big step above.
 
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ctsooner

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I can easily see that the Ref and Ref plus are much better, but I dont' have the funds to go that high until I get the new Vandersteen Preamp that should hit the market soon. That's my first need in my system. I'll go from there. IF the EXT1 is better than the optical devices I've had in there (Gigafoil is in that realm), then I may try to get the Reference into the system, but at that price, I'd need it to be a full component upgrade. That's the reason I went with the AQ Dragon power cord. I was in shock when I heard how much better it was than the Hurricane (which for the money is the sweet spot in that line). I'm really excited to get it in.
 

b345t

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I've just bought and installed the LAN EXT Reference yesterday. How long shall I expect the break in process to take?
 
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ctsooner

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I've just bought and installed the LAN EXT Reference yesterday. How long shall I expect the break in process to take?
I know that my EXT1 needs about 50 hours to build up the magnetic field. I"m sure you will love that unit as I was shocked at how good this unit works compared to all the optical isolation devices and medical filters I've tried. You relax into the music and I think it's because it's lower in jitter and when you do optical, you have to keep changing the signal from copper to optical and then back. Not sure if that's why, but ....
 

MichaelHiFi

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You'll have to be patient. When I first deployed this filter to my system and compared it with my Ultrarendu/ethereggen/Uptone Audio PS, I noted a slight change in tone. After perhaps 100 hours, maybe less, a few weeks, we were noting how well the system was sounding. And as my review detailed, there's something magic going on. I've gone back to what was and is an already very good product but the Waversa may be money well spent.
 
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b345t

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I auditioned an EXT1 and saw an immense improvement. So I ordered the Reference. I am also waiting on a Melco S100 with Pink Faun clock/wiring upgrade with the Sean Jacobs DC4/Arc6 power supply. I am hoping these will synergise with the Waversa. I'm guessing Melco switch -> waversa -> streamer.
 

ctsooner

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I would never guess with digital. There are just too many variables. I'll probably be getting a Waversa streamer in to see how it compares to my imbedded one in the Brinkmann Nyquist mk2 as well as my external streamer which is better than the internal one even with the extra connections. I also may try and get the ref and ref + in to see how they sound vs the EXT1 and each other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and system. I sure sounds like you are on a great path. What is the rest of your system?
 

MichaelHiFi

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I would never guess with digital. There are just too many variables. I'll probably be getting a Waversa streamer in to see how it compares to my imbedded one in the Brinkmann Nyquist mk2 as well as my external streamer which is better than the internal one even with the extra connections. I also may try and get the ref and ref + in to see how they sound vs the EXT1 and each other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and system. I sure sounds like you are on a great path. What is the rest of your system?
I'm getting a reference plus shipped to me, so I'll be adding my 2 cents worth in a review and why not having lived with the reference.

The variables are endless and then you add cables to the mix :( And then there's the room! The AC! Don't get me started - oh wait - you already did.

I have the Allnic T2000 integrated 30th Anniversary getting sources from an Allnic D10000 DAC and the Allnic H5500 phonostage mated to a Rega P10 turntable. A Pro-ject RS2-T transport also sends shiny discs to the T2000 brilliantly.

Speakers are Spatial X3's which are for sale and a pair of Buchardt S400 MK II's. One day will have a pair of Legacy Audio Ares as I feel they would well which our tube gear.

The path keeps getting better. John Kevalin is a true gentleman of the industry.
 
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LL21

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I've just bought and installed the LAN EXT Reference yesterday. How long shall I expect the break in process to take?
Congrats. Very exciting. I bought the demo model of a LAN EXT Reference Plus so mine did not need any burning in. However, there is a settling time for some reason. I was told by importers in other countries whom I happened to know from days gone by that they had this experience as well. A week solid for sure as I recall...been a while.
 
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LL21

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I'm getting a reference plus shipped to me, so I'll be adding my 2 cents worth in a review and why not having lived with the reference. ...
Fantastic...look forward to reading all about it. I like what it does a lot.
 

MichaelHiFi

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Fantastic...look forward to reading all about it. I like what it does a lot.
You have an amazing system. You are obviously, a well-seasoned veteran of performance audio. I'm sure it will respond to the Waversa reference plus well.

We have the JVC X970BRX 4K and I believe, very close to the same screen. That's pretty interesting...
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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You have an amazing system. You are obviously, a well-seasoned veteran of performance audio. I'm sure it will respond to the Waversa reference plus well.

We have the JVC X970BRX 4K and I believe, very close to the same screen. That's pretty interesting...
Thank you...great projectors. Not a videophile, but really enjoy watching movies with it. We have a 10' screen and it is a lot of fun. Very blessed. Enjoy your great system...I have a lot of good feedback on Allnic, but not heard myself.
 

ctsooner

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Michael, do you live near a Vandersteen dealer? I went with Vandersteen Treo's years back when I changed my ProAcs after over 20 years with them. I haven't looked back and I am blessed to have been able to listen to most of the high end speakers. I now have upgraded to the Quatro's and get detail that most speakers at 50k aren't giving me. They are one of the only true phase and time correct speakers on the market right now. A great value in high end audio IMHO. They should be on your must audition list. Looking forward to your thoughts on John's gear too.
 

justubes

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Aug 10, 2015
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I'm getting a reference plus shipped to me, so I'll be adding my 2 cents worth in a review and why not having lived with the reference.
Michael,

It will be most interesting to everyone, i believe to debunk the network gemlins since you already have the TG Optical Bridge in place and thus, in theory, do not have any EMI , nasties or noise issues for the wider lan lines coming through to your steaming pathway for the Waversa Reference to filter out.

Any perceived improvement and change sonically could be then attributable to the last mile connecting lan cable, which up to now has been reaffirmed by most to make and contribute most of the resulting difference and/or improvement to the sound.
 

ctsooner

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Ok. It’s been a few weeks. Totally burned in and it’s been a blast. I’m using the EXT Ref. Haven’t had a chance to use the streamer yet as I only wanted one change at a time. I words for what the ref unit does. Re read Michael’s review and you have it on a nutshell. To get the same words and goosebumps in two totally separate systems tells me that this device is going to help any system regardless of what you are using. I’m last wing an extra hour a day and the only reason I stop, is to make lunch or dinner for the wife or to take care of the dogs.

The ref is a must in any decent system and the EXT 1 or 2 would be in my budget when choosing a DAC in a lower cost system. It’s does so much more than any optical devices I’ve had in the system over the years. I have only heard digital this good with the TOTL MSB and Wadax. It’s one of the few digital devices I’ve used that gives me real goosebumps. My Vandersteen Quatro CT’s are true time and phase correct. Most digital isn’t due to various jitters and ringing. This is the device to lower that to a ridiculous level and allows me to get those goosebumps.
I’ll try the streamer soon, it I’ve got a great built in on, in my Brinkmann Nyquist mk2 and an even better one in my The Memory Player server streamer. Hope I’m surprised in a good way.
 

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